Summer in L.A. always means lots of music under the stars. But there’s no more satisfying outdoor concert series than Southwest Chamber Music’s Summer Festival at the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens. Surrounded by awesome grounds studded with Roman statuary, with the setting sun providing the perfect backdrop, talented chamber musicians open our ears to works standard, rare and brand new. The 2007 Summer Festival kicks off with a characteristically challenging program that includes Walter Piston’s Quintet for Flute and String Quartet and Beethoven’s Septet for Winds and Strings. But the evening’s highlight will undoubtedly be the U.S. premiere of Vietnamese composer Nguyen Phuc Linh’s Suite for Winds and Strings. SWCM met Phuc Linh last year during the group’s residency at the Hanoi National Conservatory in Vietnam, an institution devoted to the research and preservation of traditional music where Phuc Linh is composer-in-residence. When SWCM members performed the Suite for Winds and Strings at the conservatory, they reported that “Mr. Linh’s obvious enjoyment of having a work performed by Americans endeared him to all of us.” The experience led to the ensemble’s determination to introduce the composer’s music to the U.S., and this weekend’s concerts will be the test drive. Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, 1151 Oxford Road, San Marino; Fri.-Sat., July 6-7, 7:30 p.m.; $28 lawn seating, $38 Garden Terrace. (800) 726-7147 or

—Mary Beth Crain

LA Weekly